In what must be one of the oddest state directives ever – and China’s had some pretty odd ones in the past – civil servants and teachers have been set a consumption target of 230,000 packs a year of locally produced cigarettes to boost the local economy.
Of course, state reliance on tobacco-generated tax income is nothing new – see Peter Taylor’s ‘The Smoke Ring’ (1984) for details – but few governments have gone to the lengths of rummaging through bins for incriminating rival butts or fining those who don’t smoke enough.
Even schools have been issued with a smoking quota for teachers, with inspections by a ‘special taskforce’ to ensure compliance. It seem the lure of vast tax revenues is irresistible - the tail is wagging the dog to an alarming extent; of all the resources for a state to rely on for its income, this is surely one of the least prudent.
But before we point an accusing finger or see this as third-world eccentricity – the Telegraph put this story in its ‘weird news’ section – consider the tax revenue from cigarette sales in the UK; perhaps we should take a good look at the windows surrounding us and put our stones down again.
*British joke - apologies to readers of an American persuasion